Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969)

Poster for Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) by #AlAdamson

w/#JohnCarradine #PaulaRaymond #AlexanderDArcy #RobertDix

“HORROR BEYOND BELIEF LIES WAITING FOR ALL WHO DARE ENTER THE VAMPIRE’S DUNGEON!”

“…YOU’LL NEVER GET OUT!”

#Horror
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

By now it should be fairly obvious that I’m a fan of Al Adamson. As one of my Twitter buddies once said, “You’re either a fan, or you’re not.” And I think it’s fair to say that there are plenty of people in this world who are not. They may want to avoid Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) like the plague. Even I, as a fan of Al Adamson, have my doubts about whether this one is all that great. Al intended it to be a comedy, and as people like L.A. Morse have observed, (and I paraphrase greatly here):

“Bad movies can be hilarious and fun – but bad comedies are just bad.”

Indeed. If a comedy is funny, how can it be bad? So the term “bad comedy”, pretty much implies unfunny movie. “Bad horror film,” on the other hand, can mean get ready to laugh your ass off. At least that’s what it seemed to mean to my friends and me when we were teenagers. As an adult, I seem to have developed a way of enjoying bad movies without laughing –  but that’s another story…

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve watched Blood of Dracula’s Castle at least four times in my life. LIke all of Al Adamson’s work, it has it’s rewards. I just don’t think it’s his best work. 

One of the things that always surprises me about Blood of Dracula’s Castle, is the fact that John Carradine is in it but he doesn’t play Dracula. You’d think I’d remember that after seeing the film multiple times, but John Carradine is such a natural choice to play Dracula  – in fact, he did that twice before this (House of Dracula (1945), and House of Frankenstein (1944)) – that I always just assume that he did it for Al Adamson, too. But alas, no…

Alexander D’Arcy plays the famous vampire in this movie, and he’s kind of a charming, likeable version of the count. His wife, the Countess, is played by Paula Raymond, who has about 90 credits as an actress – including appearances on many famous TV shows. Carradine plays George, their Butler.

Blood of Dracula’s Castle is a pretty silly movie. It’s not much of a comedy, although it does provide a few laughs here and there (I’m not sure how intentional they were). It features attractive women chained to the wall in the dungeon, but it manages to be fairly light on the sleaze. It’s also pretty tame in the violence department. In spite of this, there was an alternate TV version of the movie created with new footage directed by . Not sure why they couldn’t just air the original version. It may simply be that they needed to stretch out the running time a bit. There’s really nothing too offensive in it (which may be one reason that it’s less fun that many of Al’s other movies).

Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) is most definitely #NotQuiteClassicCinema. If I’d seen it as a kid, on Not Quite Classic Theatre, I’m sure I would have thought it was the worst movie I’d ever seen. Many of the films they showed back then were really quite good. This one is not. But still, there’s a certain charm to it. And I’d like to think that it would have inspired me, the way so many of those movies did back then, by making me think “Hey, I could do better than this…”. Perhaps I would have scribbled down a bunch of ideas for my own weird, modern day Dracula story. Who knows?

As it is, it’s always seemed like a perfect second or third feature in an all night bad movie marathon. It’s unlikely to be the highlight of the night, but it just might provide some welcome relief between the edgier, more intense entries in your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Curse of the Undead (1959)

Poster for Curse of the Undead (1959)Curse of the Undead (1959) by #EdwardDein

w/ #EricFleming #MichaelPate #KathleenCrowley #JohnHoyt

“The countryside terrorized! The young and beautiful drained of life! Even the strongest man, destroyed by the unholy…”

“HIS BODY IS AN EMPTY SHELL THAT HOSTS A LUSTFUL FIEND!”

#Horror #Western
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

I had never heard of Curse of the Undead (1959) before. It’s yet another strange Western (I seem to be watching quite a few of those lately). It’s really a cross between a pretty straight ahead Western (unscrupulous cattle baron tries to force farmers off of their land) and a pretty straight ahead early Vampire story (young females are developing a life-threatening illness which leaves two strange looking puncture wounds on their neck). 

For the most part, these two ideas are kept fairly separate from each other. Curse of the Undead opens with a scene that feels like it could be right out of Dracula (1931), as family members (and other townspeople) gather around the bed of a young woman and try to figure out what on Earth could be wrong with her. It’s clearly a period piece, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that you were in the Wild West. 

The next scene is so typical of any number of Westerns from the 1940s or ’50s, that if you tuned in at precisely that moment, you would never suspect that you were watching a Horror film with vampires in it.

And the movie continues on like that, bouncing back and forth between gothic Vampire tale and gunslinging Western melodrama. You could almost spilt it into two different movies – almost, but not quite. Fortunately for me, I happen to enjoy both Westerns and Vampire movies. I can imagine that some people might prefer it if it stuck to one genre or the other. And with a name like Curse of the Undead, I suppose it should probably be vampires…

I’m okay with the weird mash-up, but I do wonder if there might have been a way to integrate the two genres a little bit more seamlessly – so that you always know that you are watching a Vampire Western (as opposed to bouncing back and forth). But on the other hand, the strange cinematic whiplash was half the fun.

I’d like to spend more time musing about this unusual movie, but like a vampire on the open prairie as dawn is about to break, I have to cut this journey short. Suffice it to say that Curse of the Undead (1959) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that I will have to explore more thoroughly the next time it rises from the grave on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: The Forsaken (2001)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for The Forsaken (2001)

The Forsaken (2001) by #JSCardone

w/ #KerrSmith #BrendanFehr #IzabellaMiko #JohnathonSchaech #PhinaOruche #CarrieSnodgress
 
A young man hired to drive a car cross-country picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a vampire hunter.
 
“The night… has an appetite.”
 
#Horror #Vampires
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Somewhere along the way I picked up a DVD copy of The Forsaken (2001), knowing nothing about it. I recall being pleasantly surprised by it, so I added it to my personal library. Fast forward a few years, and I couldn’t remember anything about it. So, I figured I might as well put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The review on the front of the box compares it to The Lost Boys (1987), and that’s not a completely ridiculous thing to say, as it involves a gang of vampires and a relatively cool soundtrack. It even features a couple of songs by Nickelback before they took the world by storm (I know that some will say this is a minus, not a plus, but I will make no such judgment).

The cast features Brendan Fehr, who is from Winnipeg (my home town), where he appeared is a movie called Hand (1998). I should probably be featuring that one on #TrashOrTerrorTuesday, as it is undeniably trash (and not the good kind) – but unfortunately (I mean very, very fortunately) I do not own a copy. But seriously, if I did own a copy (and I might actually buy it for a decent price – what’s wrong with me?) I would probably have to feature it on #MadeInManitobaMonday. But I digress…

The Forsaken is a much better movie than Hand. It’s not as good as The Lost Boys, but who would expect it to be? The cast is solid – and that includes former Winnipegger Brendan Fehr. I should mention that Fehr has appeared in other movies I like, including Disturbing Behavior (1998), Christina’s House (2000), and Silent Night (2012). Most would probably know him from Final Destination (2000) and Roswell (1999-2002).

In The Forsaken, Fehr plays a vampire hunter who is searching for the vampire who once bit him (to stop himself from turning). He believes it might be one of the gang that he encounters with Kerr Smith’s character, Sean – who is trying to deliver an expensive car across the country and attend his sister’s wedding. Much violent action ensues…

So what’s the verdict?

The Forsaken (2001) is a moderate Terror. It has great action, some legitimate suspense, and a few moments that could be described as scary. There is fair bit of nudity – and some sexy vampire antics – as well, which perhaps adds a touch of Trash to the mix (but this is the good kind of Trash). All in all, I enjoyed The Forsaken quite a bit (for the second time), and I will be keeping the DVD in my collection.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Requiem for a Vampire (1971)

I’ve taken to doing crosswords lately. I never had much interest in them when I was younger, but a couple of years ago, during a regular visit with my favourite (now) 98 year old actress, she expressed frustration with a book of New York Times Sunday Crosswords she had been given as a gift. She likes doing crosswords in her regular newspaper, but those New York Times ones were much more difficult. So, my partner and I decided to try doing one with her.

She was right. It was difficult. It took us three visits to complete one crossword. And that was with three brains working on it (one of which was prone to cheating once in awhile, by looking things up with a smartphone).

I supposed I had never really understood the language of crosswords; the different techniques that seemed designed to make things more confusing. For example, some clues have a question mark at the end of them. This, we figured out, meant that the answer was going to be “clever” in some way. So it was impossible to figure it out in a normal, logical way. We had to wait until we had a few clues to point us in the right direction. In other words, we needed to figure out some of the other words that intersected with this “clever” one so that we could see some of the letters that were in it. Worst case scenario, we would have to find ALL of the letters in the “clever” word by solving the intersecting ones, because even with only one blank left, we still couldn’t figure out what they were after.

Thanks to this whole COVID thing, we haven’t been able to visit our friend Doreen (who just turned 98 a few days ago) for a few months. Both she and I have found that we miss working on these frustrating puzzles together. Perhaps because of this, I have started doing the crosswords that I find in the regular newspaper, the TV guide, and even in some flyer packages. Most of them are a lot easier than the New York Times puzzles in Doreen’s book. But there are a couple that seem, to me, to be just as frustrating – if not more so.

Perhaps the worst (or best, depending on your point of view) is a gigantic crossword that takes up an entire newspaper page. The one I am currently working on has 371 ACROSS words, and 357 DOWN words. Most of the others average about 60 words for both ACROSS and DOWN. This is not the only reason that the gigantic crossword is difficult, however. It also makes use of all the most confusing and deliberately tricky clues that make simply knowing an answer a rare occurrence. Often I just don’t know what they are getting at. And sometimes when the answer is finally revealed (by carefully piecing it together), I STILL don’t know what they were getting at. “Why did they phrase the question that way?” I ask the silent newspaper. But it never answers me, and I’ve had to accept the fact that some of these riddles don’t have a logical solution and – if I don’t want to go out of mind – I simply have to enjoy the experience of letting them slowly reveal themselves to me.

In some ways, that’s not unlike watching a Jean Rollin movie. I don’t consider myself an expert, by any means. I’ve barely scratched the surface of his impressive oeuvre. I talked about my first impressions of his work in a previous post highlighting The Living Dead Girl (1982). One of my points was that I knew Rollin was famous for his vampire films, but I had come to know him mainly through his non-vampire films. Clearly, I’ve been long overdue for a exploration of what seems to be his main obsession.

I did some reading, and determined that a good place to start was Requiem for a Vampire (1971) – even though this was not his first vampire film. This worked out very nicely for me, because I happened to have a brand new copy of that film waiting to be watched (and I don’t own the previous ones – yet).

Anyone who knows me understands that I like to go into a movie not knowing anything about it (or at least not much of the plot). I like to experience the story without any preconceived notion of what it might be about. As such, I don’t like to spend a lot of time summarizing the plots of the films that I discuss in this blog. For one thing, there’s probably a million other blogs and sites where a person can read a plot synopsis if they really want to do that. More to the point, I don’t want to spoil anybody’s first experience of a film by telling them exactly what’s going to happen in it. However…

Trying to summarize the plot of Requiem for a Vampire (or most of the Jean Rollin films that I have seen) would be, in my opinion, a rather pointless exercise. It would be akin to trying to summarize the plot of a poem. Requiem for a Vampire is as much about tone and atmosphere and visual images as it is about plot or story. But just for the sake of argument, I’ll try to describe the first part of the film.

The story opens with two young women dressed in clown costumes, for reasons we don’t know, driving at high speed on a country road. They are being pursued by a second vehicle, for reasons we don’t know. One of the women is firing a gun at their pursuers, who are also shooting back at her, for reasons we don’t know. The other woman is desperately trying to steer the car from the passenger seat – for a reason we DO know; the male driver, who is NOT in clown make-up, has been hit by a bullet and is bleeding bad. There is almost no dialogue during this action, or after it’s resolved, or for the next twenty or thirty minutes. Needless to say, we do not hear any explanations for any of what we have witnessed thus far (such as why the two women are in clown make-up, or why they were in a high speed gunfight on a country road). We do eventually hear a brief comment about it, but by that point we are so deep into the movie that it really doesn’t matter. And in fact, I almost would have preferred to have never heard an explanation for any of it, because it’s very inexplicability is a big part of the charm of this movie (at least for me).

And let me be clear about this: I loved this movie! And I loved the first sequence that I have partially described. But like some of the crossword clues that I mentioned earlier, there was no logical way to understand what was going on from moment to moment. There was no way to predict what was going to happen. And a person could ask themselves, “Why did they do that?” or “How did that opening scene lead to this scene?” But I did not find myself asking any of those questions. Instead, I found myself completely mesmerized and happy to simply relax and let the events of the movie unfold before me. I could use words like hypnotic and mind-bending (is that a word?) to try to describe the effect that it had on me. It’s kind of like listening to certain pieces of music. You can’t explain why they’re so darn effective but they are.

And speaking of music, I loved the soundtrack by Pierre Raph. I’m sure it added to the overall experience that I am trying to describe.

Suffice it to say, that my first foray into the vampire side of Jean Roliin’s work has been a rollicking success. Requiem for a Vampire (1971) is a rare form of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that would be equally at home in the finest art-house cinemas, or the sleaziest grindhouse porno palaces of the past. It made for a transcendent #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn and I will gladly revisit it there anytime. I also look forward to exploring more vampire, and non-vampire, works by Jean Rollin in the future!

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Vamp (1986)

One of my favourite movies of the 1980s is Fright Night (1985). I saw it when it first came out and I loved the clever mix of horror, humour, and vampires. So, when I saw an ad for Vamp (1986) a few months later, I got excited. It looked like it had all of the elements that I had loved in Fright Night – plus Chris Makepeace and Grace Jones!

I was a big fan of Meatballs (1979) and had watched it on TV several times as a kid. I also saw My Bodyguard (1980) and, for some reason, had read the movie tie-in novelization repeatedly. Chris Makepeace was the teenage star of both of these movies. I was also aware that he was Canadian, which made him somewhat of an inspiration to me. 

           

I’m not sure how I first became aware of Grace Jones. I saw Conan the Destroyer (1984) and A View to a Kill (1985), but I already knew who she was before those films. Maybe it was because I saw her being interviewed on The Tonight Show, or other programmes – I’m not sure. I knew she had been a successful model and singer, particularly in Europe. My overall impression of her, at that time, was that she was a unique, tough, larger than life personality who had once slapped a talk show host and held her own opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Bond! I thought she was cool, and when a teacher asked me who my favourite actor was – in French class of all places – I answered “Grace Jones.” 

     

It should be noted that I liked to give strange answers in French class. I’m not sure why. Maybe because my classmates seemed to take everything a little too seriously. In this case, they would have been naming the most respected actors that they could think of. I had only seen Grace Jones in a couple of films at that point, but I named her as my favourite actor because I knew that it would flummox people. And it did.

However, the act of doing so somehow seemed to turn me into a Grace Jones fan. I wound up buying a couple of her records, even though I was primarily a hard rock/heavy metal guy in those days and she was more like pop/disco/funk. I rented movies like Deadly Vengeance (1981) because the box had her name and picture on the front (a dirty trick, as it turned out – but that’s another story). And when I found out that Grace Jones was starring in this new movie Vamp, it was one more reason to get excited about it.

When I saw Vamp I was not exactly disappointed in it. I actually found it to be quite enjoyable. It was funny, and entertaining, but it didn’t quite reach the heights of Fright Night for me. One of the problems was that there wasn’t quite enough of Grace Jones in it, although I loved her silent, but commanding performance. I eventually bought a copy on VHS and watched it a few more times over the years. I resisted upgrading it to DVD (although I was very tempted to). When I found a reasonably priced copy of the new Arrow Films Blu-ray, I could no longer resist. It was great to see it again (as it had been a few years) – and especially in such high quality! The amazing ’80s colours, the costumes – the entire production – has never looked better.

One interesting note: Concrete Blonde, one of my favourite bands from the 1990s, can be heard on the soundtrack of Vamp. I wouldn’t have known who they were in 1986. In fact, they weren’t even called Concrete Blonde yet. Song For Kim (She Said), is one of my favourite tracks on the very first Concrete Blonde album (Concrete Blonde released in1986), but it is credited to Dream 6 at the end of Vamp. This means that it was included in the movie before the album had been released. Four years later, Concrete Blonde unleashed Bloodletting (1990) on the world and it became their most successful album. The sort-of title track, Bloodletting (the Vampire song), was apparently inspired by the novels of Anne Rice. But now I can’t help but wonder if Vamp had helped to get the creative juices flowing. Probably not, but it’s an intriguing thought.

By the way,  Bloodletting (the Vampire song) was featured in the Canadian vampire film Blood and Donuts (1995), which I’ve always admired. Now there’s a film that could use a remastered Blu-ray with extras. But I digress…

Vamp (1986) is not a perfect movie. It is generally rated lower than #Certified ’80s vampire classics like Fright Night (1985) and The Lost Boys (1987), and I would agree that this is appropriate. Still, I somehow find Vamp irresistible, and I will always be happy to see it on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. After all, it is the imperfections that often make a movie a #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic.